By Ben Gonzalez
The Strokes are back, and yes loyal Strokes fans, there is still a lot to complain about, but more importantly The Strokes offer their best album since 2001’s legendary Is This It? After a five-year hiatus that brought us a slew of solo albums from Strokes members that were good, but lets face it, not The Strokes, we finally have Angles.
After five acrimonious years The Strokes have been able to put aside individual egos and arguments to bring us their most democratically created album to date. With Casablancas accounting for nearly all of the songwriting for the previous three albums, The Strokes took a new approach of allowing each individual member to put in their two cents. This new approach to songwriting may strip The Strokes of some of their iconic edgy chic appeal, but the result is an eclectic mix of rhythm, melody, and tone that ultimately culminates into a collective tapestry that hits you from a myriad of, well, “angles!”
Angles starts with a bang with the guitar heavy “Machu Picchu.” Sounding bizarrely similar to “Land Down Under” by Australian rockers Men at Work, The Strokes immediately cue the listener in on their disregard for expectations. Additionally, Casablancas makes light of their five-year hiatus by singing: “Putting your patience to the test.” Perhaps it’s not your cup of tea, or for the sake of mentioning Men at Work one more time, your flavor of “vegemite sandwich,” but nonetheless “Machu Picchu” tells fans and critics that they are going to do what they want with their album.
The album continues with the radio-friendly “Under Cover of Darkness” which opens up with guitarists Albert Hammond Jr. and Nick Valenzi making their guitars squeal in perfect syncopation. Yet “Under Cover of Darkness” certainly lacks the edge that has helped define The Strokes in the past. While Casablancas croons “I’ll wait for you, will you wait for me too?” it can’t help but make one miss Casablancas when he was singing “you talk way too much.” It may take a listen or two to realize, but “Undercover of Darkness” sounds eerily close to a love song, yes, let that resonate for a second or two, a love song. Last I checked, what fans want from The Strokes is the fashionable culmination of not giving a s*** and playing gritty pessimistic music that paradoxically comes out as positive and happy. Lets leave the dorky wonderland lyrics to John Mayer.
Fortunately, the album continues with force. “Two Kinds of Happiness” finds The Strokes back in the eighties, but lets all face it, the eighties totally rocked! “Two Kinds of Happiness” also offers a chorus of sweltering guitar riffs that will knock you right out of your Members Only jacket. Angles climaxes with “Taken For a Fool” which reminds us why we love The Strokes so much in the first place; gritty guitar riffs and a chorus of simplicity so pure it would make Mark Rothko proud. Utilizing lyrics like, “I know, everyone goes any damn place they choose” and “we’re so lucky because we never grew up,” Casablancas articulates frustration and contentment in a way only he can.
After the Thin Lizzy-esque “Gratisfaction” and a stripped down “Call Me Back” Angles ends with “Life is Simple in the Moonlight” and though it may not leave you as floored as the first time you listened to Is This It?, it nonetheless leaves you excited about The Strokes again! Overall Angles is an album of soaring highs and some slightly painful comedowns, but nevertheless it is still a success. It may serve as a metaphor for The Strokes largely tumultuous career, but fortunately, Angles has just enough highs to leave the listener satisfied. Yet as we all know, The Strokes can never really succeed in the eyes of die hard fans, so if it doesn’t meet expectations and you loathe every second of it, well perhaps you’ve just been “taken for a fool” for the past five years. Get over it. Stop buying their albums. Yet for the rest of us, this is not it and we look forward to hearing The Strokes evolve in “any damn way they choose.”